Sounds Hummingbirds Make

Hummingbirds produce a variety of distinct sounds that serve different purposes in their daily lives. Understanding hummingbird vocalizations provides insight into their complex behaviors and communication methods. This article will explore the various sounds hummingbirds make, their functions, how they are produced, and how to identify common vocalizations.

An Introduction to Hummingbird Sounds

Hummingbirds are well known for the buzzing sound of their rapidly beating wings, which flap 10-15 times per second during hovering flight. However, they also utilize chirps, squeaks, and trills for communication. Male hummingbirds have specialized vocal structures allowing them to sing elaborate courtship songs to attract mates. Females and juveniles use simpler vocalizations to communicate with others.

Hummingbird sounds fall into two main categories:

  • Songs – Complex, learned vocalizations produced only by males during courtship and mating. Songs vocalize territory and identity.
  • Calls – Short, simple sounds used by both males and females in social interactions, conveying messages including alarm, aggression, and greeting.

While singing is critical for mating, calling allows for essential non-breeding communication. Understanding key hummingbird calls provides insight into their behaviors and social dynamics.

Common Hummingbird Calls and Their Meanings

Here are some of the most frequent vocalizations hummingbirds make outside of formalized songs, along with their associated meanings:


  • A short, high-pitched “chip” sound, often repeated in series.
  • Used during interactions with other birds, either as a greeting or expression of mild aggression.
  • Often made by juveniles begging for food from parents.


  • Rapid series of higher-pitched chips strung together.
  • Indicative of an excited or aggressive state in territorial disputes or mating pursuits.


  • A sharp, abrupt, high-pitched noise.
  • Used specifically during aggressive encounters such as chasing intruders away.


  • Rhythmic series of fast clicking noises made with the bill.
  • Utilized by males during courtship displays.


  • Amid-rangecall sounding like a weak whine or cry.
  • Communicates distress in adults, particularly in response to predators.
  • Made frequently by juveniles when seeking food or attention.

How Hummingbirds Produce Sound

Hummingbirds have anatomical adaptations allowing them to vocalize, including structures called the syrinx and supra-syringeal membrane.


  • The avian equivalent of a mammalian larynx or voice box.
  • Two sets of vibrating tissues produce sound through rapid muscular control.
  • Allows hummingbirds to create intricate songs and varied calls.

Supra-syringeal Membrane

  • A thin, featherless membrane at the bifurcation of the trachea.
  • Acts as a sound modifier, enabling higher-pitched notes.
  • Muscular control over the membrane contours allows tone and frequency changes.

These specialized structures, coupled with rapid muscular coordination, enable hummingbirds to produce diverse vocalizations. From short chips and squeaks to complex courtship songs, specific sounds are created through precision syringeal and membrane movements.

Identifying Hummingbird Species from Sound

Many hummingbird species have signature features of their vocalizations that experts can use to identify them, including:

Anna’s Hummingbird

  • Common urban species in the western US with loud, conspicuous calls.
  • Males have bold, squeaky vocal displays during dives over their territories.
  • Females give sharp “pit” calls year-round and may produce a subordinate song.

Allen’s Hummingbird

  • Small, green-backed species found along the Pacific Coast.
  • Males sing warbling tunes or successive chirps during breeding displays.
  • Females and juveniles give emphatic, repeated chips when threatened.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

  • The lone breeding hummingbird of eastern North America.
  • Males sing a short hoarse jumble of notes and whistles during courtship.
  • Both sexes make single-note squeaks or whines in disputes over flowers.

Calliope Hummingbird

  • One of the smallest species, breeding inland in the western US.
  • Males sing complex twitters, whistles, buzzes, and trills during courtship flights.
  • Vocalizations have a lower maximum frequency than related species.

Rufous Hummingbird

  • Medium-sized hummingbird breeding north of the Ruby-throated.
  • Males sing distinctive three-part tweets near perches during courtship.
  • Females and juveniles give sharp chip notes on their breeding grounds.

With practice, birders can learn to identify different hummingbird species by patterning their calls. Understanding the meaning behind distinct sounds also provides insight into hummingbird behavior.

Common Questions About Hummingbird Vocalizations

Why do hummingbirds sing?

Male hummingbirds sing elaborate songs to attract potential mates and vocalize territory during the breeding season. Complex vocal displays indicate fitness. Females assess songs when choosing a mate.

How do hummingbirds make sounds without vocal cords?

Hummingbirds lack vocal cords but have adapted a unique organ called the syrinx to produce sounds. Controlled by specialized muscles, the syrinx acts like a tunable wind instrument.

Do female hummingbirds sing?

Female hummingbirds generally do not sing complex songs. However, some species like Anna’s Hummingbird produce simpler subordinate songs as well as calls. Females mainly use chip, squeak, and whistling calls to communicate.

Why do hummingbirds chatter?

Chattering indicates excitement, usually during aggressive encounters over territory or in mating pursuits. The rapid calls reflect elevated energy and stimulation.

What does a baby hummingbird sound like?

Nestling hummingbirds make soft, repeated, high-pitched peeping or whistling sounds, often while fluttering wings. Fledglings give louder, more urgent chips and whistles when seeking food or attention.

Can hummingbirds hear?

Yes, hummingbirds have excellent hearing attuned to the frequency of bird vocalizations. This allows them to detect calls and songs of other individuals, an ability important for mating and communication.


Hummingbird sounds add layers of complexity to their behaviors and interactions. From courtship songs to various short calls, vocalizations allow essential communication. Learning to identify the unique sounds hummingbirds produce provides insight into their colorful lives and fascinating biology. Paying careful attention to the diverse vocal repertoire of hummingbirds reveals a new dimension to appreciating these ethereal birds.

Sounds Hummingbirds Make When Flying

One of the most magical things about hummingbirds is the sounds they make when in flight. Their rapidly beating wings create an iconic buzzing or humming noise that serves as an auditory indicator of their presence before you even see them. Here is a closer look at why hummingbirds make noise when flying and how to identify the different sounds.

Wings Beating at High Frequencies

The most obvious sound hummingbirds produce when flying is the hum or buzz from their wings flapping at incredibly fast speeds. The average hummingbird’s wings beat between 50 and 200 times per second. This rapid muscle contraction creates airflow over the wing surfaces that generates vibrations we perceive as humming. The exact frequency depends on factors including body size, wing shape, and flight speed. Smaller hummingbird species tend to create higher-pitched sounds. When hovering in place at a flower, the buzzing reaches its peak as their wings beat at maximum speeds.

Air Pushed Through Feathers

Another element creating audible flight noise is the air pushed through hummingbird feathers. As their wings churn vigorously, air currents collide with the wing surfaces. The sound of air rushing over and through the feathers adds to the characteristic hum. It produces a more gusty, fluttering effect with the wingbeats. The vane structures and interlocking barbs of feathers help break up and scatter the air flow, increasing tonal complexity.

Resonant Vocalizations

In addition to mechanical wing sounds, hummingbirds can produce vocal resonating flight calls. These occur when air from the trachea is pushed past vibrating tissues in the syrinx, creating a pure-tone squeak or whistle. The calls are produced rhythmically synchronized with each wingbeat, adding a pulsing, buzzing quality. Species such as the Allen’s and Rufous Hummingbirds exhibit resonant flight calls. This vocal mechanism is more prominent in courtship displays. The mix of percussive wing noise and pulsing vocalizations creates a captivating fluttering medley.

Identifying Species by Sound

Experienced birders trained to listen to nuances can sometimes identify a species by flight sounds alone. Factors including wingbeat frequency, overall pitch, buzz characteristics, and vocalizations provide clues. For example:

  • Rufous Hummingbirds – Medium pitch, raspy buzzing with whistling chirps
  • Allen’s Hummingbirds – High pitch, snappy buzzing mixed with flat chirps
  • Calliope Hummingbirds – Very high pitch, smooth buzzing with twittering squeaks
  • Broad-tailed Hummingbirds – Low throbbing buzzing with trilling chatters

Paying close attention to the unique flight sounds hummingbirds produce can be very helpful during identification.

Reasons for Making Noise in Flight

Hummingbird flight sounds serve several purposes:

  • Warning of approach – The loud buzzing alerts other birds or animals to their presence so the hummingbird is not accidentally collided with.
  • Attracting mates – Males incorporate resonant vocalizations into display dives and flight patterns to dazzle females.
  • Stake territory – Noisy flight calls reinforce ownership of a feeding patch or nesting area.
  • Startle predators – Odd fluttering sounds momentarily distract predators during escape.

While mainly incidental, hummingbird flight noise provides select advantages. Next time you hear the blur of wings, listen closely to the pitches, tones, and patterns revealing the unique flight mechanics and behaviors of hummingbirds.

Common Questions About Hummingbird Flight Sounds

Why are hummingbird wings so noisy?

Their wings beat at incredibly fast speeds of 50 to 200 times per second to enable specialized flight abilities like hovering and reverse flight. This rapid flapping creates loud buzzing or humming.

What makes the different sounds when they fly?

Wing movement pushes air to generate basic humming, while vocal Syrinx organs add chirping. The mix of air currents and mini-sonic booms from wings makes various sounds.

Do hummingbird feathers create noise?

Yes, the rush of air through specialized feather structures adds a fluttering effect and subtle tones beneath the wing hum.

How does wing size impact flight sound?

Larger hummingbird species with bigger wings like a Giant Hummingbird create lower-pitched, deeper throbbing hums compared to tiny species.

Do hummingbird wings buzz silently?

It’s not physically possible for their wings to beat fast enough to hover without making a sound. Some stealthy owls can muffle noise, but hummingbirds are inherently noisy flyers.

Can you identify a hummingbird by hearing it?

Skilled birders can deduce species in some cases based on subtle unique attributes of the sounds made by wings, trills, and chatter.


The characteristic sounds hummingbirds generate during flight stem from their perfectly adapted anatomy required for specialized feeding and behaviors. The next time you hear frenzied buzzing cut the air, take a moment to appreciate the precision required to sustain their aerial mastery. Those captivating sounds represent an evolved system enabling hummingbirds to hover and dash with such grace. The vision of a hummingbird is made even more magical when the energetic audible cues announcing their arrival reach your ears.

Sounds Hummingbirds Use to Communicate

Hummingbirds have an extensive vocal repertoire they use to communicate with each other. From elaborate courtship songs to simple chips and tweets, hummingbird sounds convey important information. Understanding the context behind the diverse noises hummingbirds make provides insight into their complex social behaviors.

Types of Vocalizations

The two main categories of hummingbird vocalizations used during communication include:


  • Complex arrangements of notes, trills, and buzzes produced only by males during courtship.
  • Songs vary extensively based on species and have dialects in some populations.
  • Females evaluate song characteristics to assess male fitness for mating.


  • Brief simple vocalizations used by both males and females.
  • Calls include chips, peeps, squeals, whistles, buzzes, and chatters.
  • Each call type transmits a specific message or emotion.

While songs enable mating, calls allow hummingbirds to effectively navigate all other social scenarios.

Common Vocalizations and Meanings

Here are details on some of the most frequent hummingbird communication calls:

High-pitched Squeaks

  • Used by males and females during aggressive encounters.
  • Signal irritation and act as a warning. Often elicit retreat by another bird.

Repeated Chips

  • Short, detached, high-pitched notes in series.
  • Communicate excitement andElevated social interest, especially among juveniles.

Fast Chatters

  • Buzzing array of accelerated chips and squeaks.
  • Used to signal alarm at potential predators.


  • Plaintive, wavering mid-range call.
  • Made by nestlings begging for food and adults in distress.


  • Rapid mechanical clicking produced with the bill during male courtship displays.
  • Mimics insect sounds that females instinctively respond to.

How Hummingbirds Produce Sound

Hummingbirds lack vocal cords and instead have adapted their syrinx organs to produce diverse calls and songs.

  • Syrinx structure containing sound-generating membranes located at the tracheal branch.
  • Muscular control over the syrinx allows hummingbirds to isolate one side for sound production.
  • This enables extremely rapid changes in tone, pitch, and frequency modulation.
  • Specialized feathers around the syrinx aid sound modification and resonance.

The syrinx allows hummingbirds to create an astounding array of tones from low-frequency buzzes and whistles to high-speed chips and chatters outside of our audible range. Even with basic equipment, hummingbirds can craft eloquent communications.

Unique Dialects

Some hummingbird species exhibit distinct regional dialects in their songs and calls. For examples:

  • Anna’s Hummingbirds on different parts of the California coast have detectable song variations.
  • Puerto Rican Emeralds use three note calls compared to two note versions on other Caribbean islands.
  • Bee Hummingbird populations have distinct nuances in their metallic chirp calls by location.

These dialects suggest localized cultural transmission of vocal styles and enable discrimination between outsiders and residents. It represents a sophisticated level of adaptation in hummingbird communication abilities.

Functions of Communication Sounds

In addition to dialect and mating contexts, key uses of hummingbird vocalizations include:

  • Claiming territory – Songs and calls establish ownership over nest sites or feeding areas.
  • Bonding with mates – Contact calls coordinate pair interactions.
  • Identifying family – Parents and offspring recognize each other through unique vocal cues.
  • Marking food sources – Call notes lead others to plentiful flowers.
  • Avoiding conflict – Warning sounds signal approach to avoid collisions.

Their diverse sounds enable coordination of almost all essential hummingbird activities. Vocal communication plays an integral role in their behaviors.


The ability to produce various calls along with complex courtship songs allows hummingbirds to effectively relate information critical to coordination, bonding, territoriality, and mating. From their rapid fire chatter to mournful whining, the sounds they generate help facilitate interactions and provide insight into behaviors for those willing to listen closely. Appreciating the nuances of hummingbird communication creates a deeper understanding of their lives.

Common Questions About Hummingbird Communication Sounds

How do hummingbird sounds help them survive?

Vocalizations like alarm calls alert others to danger, food calls summon group feeding, and squeaks warn intruders – all promoting survival.

What do the songs hummingbirds sing mean?

Males’ elaborate courtship songs demonstrate fitness to females for breeding. More complex songs with rapid trills often indicate healthier males.

How do hummingbirds talk to each other?

They create various vocalizations through specialized Syrinx organs, just like how humans use larynxes and vocal cords to generate sounds.

Do hummingbirds have different accents?

Some groups show regional “dialects” where songs and calls have slightly different characteristics based on location.

Why do they make noise when flying?

The wing noise serves to warn other birds of their presence, while some species add trilling calls to attract mates.

What do hummingbirds sound like to each other?

Their hearing is specially adapted for bird vocalization frequencies, so the songs likely sound rich and resonant to them.


The diversity of hummingbird vocalizations allows for essential communication and complex cultural transmission between generations. Just as lexicon enables human language, hummingbirds have evolved an extensive vocabulary of sounds permitting intricate social interactions. The next time you hear hummingbird chatter, consider the value of each squeak and whistle in their mysterious world. Listening attentively to their vocal nuances provides a portal into understanding hummingbird communications.

How Hummingbirds Make Sounds with Their Tail Feathers

Many people are surprised to learn that in addition to vocalizations, hummingbirds can produce sounds mechanically with their tail feathers. Specialized tail anatomy allows males of some species to generate buzzing, snapping, or popping noises for social signaling purposes. Understanding how hummingbirds use feathers to produce sounds provides insight into their behavioral displays.

Tail Feather Adaptations

Male hummingbirds of certain species have uniquely modified tail feathers enabling sound production:

  • Outer tail feathers have stiffened shafts and symmetrical vanes ideal for sound generation.
  • Central tail feathers have flexible shafts and uneven vanes more typical of flight feathers.
  • This differential feather anatomy allows outer tail feathers to function as instruments.
  • Outer vane of one feather slides across inner vane of the opposing feather to create a stridulation effect